Warrior King

Virtuous Woman

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Sounding very much like the voice of young conscious Jamaica, 23-year-old Warrior King mashes up the set on his debut album. Like many reggae youths, Warrior King began his career with a bristling hardcore style, mimicking his favorite DJ of the day, the relentlessly gruff Bounty Killa. But as a Rastafarian consciousness developed in him on into his adult years, Warrior favored the "singjay" style for a more emotively striking and message-oriented brand of music. The reggae community exalted the young vocalist after a pair of terrific singles ("Virtuous Woman" and "Never Go Where Pagans Go") ran roughshod through the dancehall in late 2001 and on into 2002. On the strength of these tremendously fresh-sounding cuts, a heavy buzz surrounded the artist, but no album appeared to be in the works. Finally, after nearly a year of anticipation, Virtuous Woman dropped in October of 2002. Melodic and popular "riddims" provided by Sheldon "Calibud" Stewart, Richard "Shams" Browne, Lion Paw, and Penthouse as well as flavorful live instrumentation from the Firehouse Crew combine exceedingly well for the young Warrior's incantations. While his lyrics (co-written throughout by Stewart) are ostensibly preachy, the artists' voice has an innocent quality to it, as if he is simply a humble mouthpiece pouring forth blessings from a higher source. This is not gospel music, though the format is one of social and spiritual awareness aided by the eminent power of modern reggae's soulful take on rhythm & blues. The essence here is one of "upfulness" and the wisdom of the ancients is displayed poetically and pleasingly on tracks such as "Rough Road" and "Jah Is Always There." The message of love, whether in the form of relationships or the simple "love thy neighbor" adage, proliferates on the album, as tracks like "Health and Strength," "It's Been a While," and "Empress Divine" will attest. The obligatory mother tribute "Oh Mama" is heartfelt but a little too intimate and a remake of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," while justifiably sound, is a bit much. Overall, a highly recommend album for fans of conscious reggae.

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